The tonnarelli cacio e pepe is one of the most characteristic and well-known dishes of the Lazio culinary tradition, which has now become a symbol of Italianness. A first course of pasta, which is made with a few essential ingredients, black pepper in grains and pecorino romano cheese. The preparation of this first course, despite its simplicity, hides some small pitfalls to pay attention to, if you want to get a good dish, a symbol of eating well with Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) ingredients.
Ingredients for the tonnarelli with cheese and pepper (4 people)
- 0.9 pounds of tonnarelli;
- 0.45 pounds of finely grated Pecorino Romano (about 6 ounces), plus more for serving:
- 1 ounce of freshly ground black pepper
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Preparation of tonnarelli with cheese and pepper
Tonnarelli are a type of spaghetti, a variety of fresh egg pasta typical of Abruzzo cuisine. These spaghetti are made with a typical Abruzzo culinary tool, named the guitar. Being a pasta that has Abruzzo origins, the most used recipe is precisely the “cacio e pepe“.
Let’s start by grating the pecorino romano cheese. The characteristic of this kind of cheese is its medium-seasoning, which is the main characteristic for obtaining a good cream, which does not fluff or form coarse lumps.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, filling the pot slightly less than normal, this will allow to have a greater concentration of starch, which will be essential for the phase of re-cooking in the pan. It is not necessary to salt the water as the pecorino romano is already very savory and adding more salt to the recipe would ruin the balance of flavors.
When the water is boiling, pour the tonnarelli and let them cook for half the time indicated on the package.
In the meantime, crush the peppercorns on a cutting board with a meat mallet or even a simple grinder. We put it in a pan and let it heat up on the stove. Toast the black pepper in a pan so that the smell of pepper starts and releases. Add 2 or 3 ladles of the pasta cooking water, letting the bubbles of starch evaporate.
Once the cooking time of the tonnarelli is reached, drain directly into the pan with the water and pepper. Let cook the pasta for the remaining cooking time. If necessary, add more pasta cooking liquid with a ladle, from the pot to the pan, if pasta is dry. Stirring and tossing with tongs to oxygenate the pasta.
In the meantime that the pasta continues its cooking, we can start preparing the pecorino cheese cream. Put half of the grated pecorino in a bowl together with a sprinkling of chopped pepper.
Pour on the grated pecorino cheese, a ladle of pasta cooking water, that we have kept in the pot. Stirring and tossing vigorously with tongs, until very creamy, adding the remaining amount of pecorino a little at a time.
If necessary, adjust the consistency of the cream with additional pasta cooking water, so as to obtain a very creamy cheese.
Once the tonnarelli are cooked, remove the pan from the stove and pour in the pecorino cheese and pepper cream. We mix the pasta with the cream with the help of kitchen tongs.
A final grated pecorino cheese and a sprinkle of chopped pepper.
We can serve our tonnarelli cacio e pepe, and enjoy them immediately in their creaminess.